Estimated read time: 5-6 minutes
This archived news story is available only for your personal, non-commercial use. Information in the story may be outdated or superseded by additional information. Reading or replaying the story in its archived form does not constitute a republication of the story.
SALT LAKE CITY — Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney is defending statements made at a private fundraiser earlier in the year where he said 47 percent of Americans won't vote for him because they rely on government programs.
"There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what," Romney said at a fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. on May 17. "All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it.
Republicans used the figure of 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income taxes in the primary season, but Romney followed up his comments saying he is not going to worry about that group of Americans.
"My job is not to worry about those people," he said. "I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5-10 percent of people who are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not."
My job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives. What I have to do is convince the 5-10 percent of people who are independents that are thoughtful, that look at voting one way or the other depending upon, in some cases, emotion, whether they like the guy or not.
Video of the fundraiser was released Monday afternoon by liberal magazine Mother Jones. Romney called a brief press conference Monday night to address his comments, saying 47 percent of Americans not paying income tax was "not elegantly stated."
"This is, of course, something I talk about a good deal in rallies and speeches and so forth, which is the president and I have very different approaches to the future of America and what it takes to ignite our economy and put people back to work," Romney told reporters. "The president believes in what I've described as a government centered society where government plays a larger and larger role, provides for more and more of the needs of individuals and I happen to believe instead in a free enterprise, free society where people pursuing their dreams are able to employ one another, build enterprises, build the strongest economy in the world."
Romney said he attends several events where questions are asked by supporters, and he tells them how his campaign differs from his Democratic opponent.
"At a fundraiser you have people say governor how are you going to win this? And so I respond well, the president has his group I have my group," Romney said. "I want to keep my team strong and motivated and I want to get those people in the middle, that's something which fundraising people who are parting with their monies are very interested in knowing can you win or not and that's what this was addressing."
Shortly after the video was released, the Romney campaign issued a statement saying Romney is concerned about all Americans and wants them to not be dependent on the government.
"Mitt Romney wants to help all Americans struggling in the Obama economy. As the governor has made clear all year, he is concerned about the growing number of people who are dependent on the federal government, including the record number of people who are on food stamps, nearly one in six Americans in poverty, and the 23 million Americans who are struggling to find work. Mitt Romney's plan creates 12 million new jobs in four years, grows the economy and moves Americans off of government dependency and into jobs."
Speaking to Grant and Amanda on KSL Newsradio Tuesday morning, Utah Republican Chairman Thomas Wright said he believes Romney's comments were taken out of context.
"I don't think that's what Gov. Romney meant," he said. "I think what he is saying is that there are a lot of people that support President Obama for different reasons and there's nothing wrong with that. Everybody gets their chance to decide who they support in the race.
"I think everybody out there, you ask yourself, how would you feel if you were at a meeting and someone's hidden a camera and they're recording you, taking your words out of context," Wright added. "It's kind of a dirty moment. It's not what politics in America should be about."
Sen. Orrin Hatch also addressed the issue on the Grant and Amanda program, saying the mainstream media is pandering to their liberal audience and will do anything they can to slip him up.
"I think he's just got to answer the questions and move on," Sen. Hatch said. "And he's doing it."
Sen. Hatch said the comments made by Romney were factual and was a way Romney could show President Obama is not addressing jobs.
"He was just stating a fact actually, but the number is 51 percent," Sen. Hatch said. "And we've got to find a way to get people jobs, getting them back to work. He's the only one that has a real plan to do that and really can do that. Where is the president's plan?
"He was at a private meeting and there weren't supposed to be any reporters there," Sen. Hatch added. "He could have been more responsive and more articulate, but he's the first to admit that. Well, why don't people accept that. This is a fella that's given up his life to run for the president of the United States when he could have the most wonderful life in our country."
The non-partisan Tax Policy Center created three pie charts that address Romney's comment about 47 percent of Americans who do not pay income tax. Of the 47 percent of Americans that do not pay income tax, 28.3 percent pay payroll taxes, while 18.1 percent don't because their yearly income is under $20,000 or are elderly Americans who receive Social Security.
Romney's comments come on the heels of an article posted by Politico which said the Romney campaign is in disarray over disagreements with top aide Stuart Stevens. The article cited several anonymous Romney campaign staffers who said Stevens is single-handedly making decisions about the campaign that are keeping Romney from having better success.
Recent national polling has the race still close between President Barack Obama and Romney, but many battleground state polls show President Obama pulling away with a lead.